British Columbia

Vancouver bans dining-in at restaurants, closes playgrounds, warns all retail to ensure social distancing

The City of Vancouver has announced that all restaurants must stop any dine-in services by the end of Friday or face prosecution.

City will prosecute restaurants that don't comply; playgrounds also to be shut down

A restaurant worker waits for customers in downtown Vancouver, British Columbia on Wednesday, March 18, 2020. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

The City of Vancouver has announced that all restaurants must stop any dine-in services by the end of Friday or face prosecution, as part of a host of new policies unveiled a day after the city declared a state of emergency.

"The changes being announced today are major. They mean ... many, many people will be laid off," said Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart.

"We are doing this because we think this is what we need to do to keep vulnerable people from becoming seriously ill, or worse."

Takeout and delivery options can continue, but Stewart said residents should phone the city's 311 phone line if they saw any restaurants breaking the rules. 

The city's new powers under the state of emergency allow them to occupy or shut down any building immediately if they see fit. Stewart also warned all retail operations to ensure social distancing is enforced in their facilities, or they will also face consequences.

"This is an action implemented around the world and we felt we needed to act sooner rather than later," he said. "Some will ask why. And why is because it's all about keeping people safe."

Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart says restaurants that don't comply with the new order banning dine-in operations will face prosecution. (CBC)

Community centres repurposed, playgrounds banned

In addition, the city is shutting down all 166 playgrounds operated by its park board and will be putting together an informational campaign to try and stop people from crowding in popular parks and beaches.

"Wherever possible, could you please stay home," said Darrell Reid, the head of the city's COVID-19 task force. 

"It's okay two metres apart from other humans, I think that's probably good for everyone sometimes ... but whenever your can, stay home, reduce the risk, and know that's an amazing thing you can do."

City manager Sadhu Johnston also announced the city would be passing legislation to extend the deadline for filing local taxes from July 2 to Sept. 1, and that parking bylaws won't be enforced to free up resources for more urgent issues. 

"We can't just transfer staff [quickly], but we will be looking to redeploy to other critical functions."

In addition, the city will be converting some already-closed community centres to triage/isolation facilities in partnership with Vancouver Coastal Health.

A two-month deferral on payment of city taxes and utilities — from the beginning to July to the beginning of September — is also expected to be passed by council shortly. 

Why the change? 

It was less than a week ago that Stewart and other local officials were still saying restaurants could stay open so long as they maintained social distancing practices, including customers two metres apart from one another.

However, Johnston said not enough people were complying with the nuance of the recommendations. 

"It was creating confusion. You had some restaurants that had been closed, some people walking in and out, eating meals as though nothing was happening," he said.

"There was not clarity of the order and understanding of what it meant for folks." 

While the city is asking people to avoid going outside as much as possible, a shelter-in-place order similar to the one passed in California is not being considered — at least not yet.

"It is not a measure [the province] supports at this time," said Johnston.

"It's imperative we stay at home, but they believe that supply chains and essential services of the city and province must continue at this time."  

If you have a COVID-19-related story we should pursue that affects British Columbians, please email us at impact@cbc.ca.  

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